Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 25 – “India Needs Hydro”

My dear young friends,

India has 248,000 MW of installed capacity today of which Hydro is 40,000 MW. By developing more Hydro within the country, following can happen:

  1. We will have cheaper power for all.
  2. We will have cleaner environment for all.
  3. We will reduce our dependence on import of Coal, Oil, Gas and Nuclear Fuel (Uranium).
  4. We will reduce our dependence on import of Technology for Power Plants.
  5. We will have more stable Grid, supplying higher quality electricity.
  6. Utilization of indigenous renewable resource will lead to energy security and sustainable development.

In our country, the annual rainfall is of the order of 400 million ha m, 90% of which pours down in just 30 days. Water therefore needs to be stored for its regulated releases throughout the year. This is accomplished by creating reservoirs and organizing inter-basin water transfer and interlinking of rivers. Besides increasing the water availability by 25%, a net of 30,000 MW additional power potential can come out of this effort.

Massive gravitating influx of surface water shed by the hydrological cycle has enormous potential for energy generation, particularly in a monsoon blessed country like India. Every drop of circulating water above mean sea level has potential energy inherent in it by virtue of its position. The energy of waterways can be converted into useful “kilowatts” to energize the nation !!


India’s total Hydro potential is 300,000 MW comprising 150,000 MW in rivers, Interlinking of rivers paying way for another 30,000 MW, 90,000 MW of pumped storage, 20,000 MW of small hydro and 10,000 MW Tidal.

World is yet to find a better electrical storage system than a Pumped-Storage, which actually stores surplus power during off-peak hours in the form of Hydro potential by pumping water from lower reservoir to upper reservoir and turbines it back into the system in fraction of a minute on demand during peaking needs. Hydro is renewable energy that can be stored for backing other highly intermittent renewable’s like solar & wind.

Small Hydro on the Renewable Energy Matrix parameters like cost, tariff, capacity factor, ‘Prime–Moving’ efficiency, operational flexibility and Carbon footprint places itself superior to all other alternatives in the portfolio. Small Hydro loses on economy of scale compared to normal Hydro but yet out beats all other renewable’s and remains the star of the show.

India has a long coastline of >7,500 kM. The Gulfs where tides get pronounced becoming suitable for moving turbines are ideal for power generation. The most attractive locations are the Gulf of Cambay and Kachchh on the West coast and the delta of Ganga in Sunderbans in the East. Identified economical tidal power potential in India is of the order of 10,000 MW.

Unfounded apprehensions

Per Capita Storage in India is lowest compared to BRICS countries and USA. India has 4,000 odd dams against 75,000 in USA. Dam opponents talk against submergence. The submergence required by storage schemes (which are <40% of the total no. of schemes identified by CEA to develop country’s entire hydropower potential) @ 20 ha/MW would be <0.77% of the total area of the country, of which forest land would be 0.2%, since most of it would be the river bed itself.

Another question is inconvenience to those getting displaced and resettled. Are some of our fellow citizens not defending our borders in most risky snowy mountains like Kargil and Ladhakh? Defense has a cost, Development has a cost. It deserves to be compensated honourably and graciously. In case of Three Gorges project in China, as much as 1/3rd of the investment had been set apart for R&R and environment protection.

Positive environmental impacts of Hydro projects like Improved ecology with Lake shore environment and water liking birds, superior micro-climate with moderate temperatures, mitigation of soil erosion in the command area, stabilization of ground water table, flood control etc. need to be appreciated. In the recent deadly floods in Uttarakhand, Tehri Hydro Project absorbed 90% of flood waters of the river Bhagirathi and saved Rishikesh and Haridwar towns downstream.

Hydro projects like Three Georges, Sardar Sarovar and Teesta are the ones which set off millions of tons of carbon against Mega Thermals. But the dilemma is that while Teesta like hydro projects get into questions, ultra mega thermals like 3,960 MW Tilaiya Project gets entitlement for Rs 2,000 Cr in first 10-years. One wonders, with 5 to 7% possible reduction in carbon emission due to super critical technology, an ultra mega Thermal project ready to emit carbon in billions of tons gets through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) while a large hydro abating 100% carbon emission of an equivalent thermal project does not see the light of the day. If we are serious on carbon abetment, let us not forget that coal based projects account for >50% of global carbon emissions and Hydro is the most potential option to offset the menace.

Some opine, Hydro is not renewable, only small Hydro is. Amusing indeed! How can a 26 MW Hydro be non-renewable and a 25 MW Hydro be renewable? Renewability comes out of Hydrological cycle. It has nothing to do with MW.

Hydro:Thermal Mix

India’s power sector seems to have lost its sense of proportion down the line. From a Hydro:Thermal mix of 45:55 during the late sixties, it has today landed to a mind-boggling proportion of 20:80. Had we managed it at just the reverse proportion of 80:20, the average cost of generation in this country would have been 50-60% of what it is today and there would have been no peaking shortage under the same MWs installed, under the same investment. Present Hydro:Thermal mix is leading to-

  • Accelerated exhaustion of fixed inventory of fossil fuel
  • Environmental pollution
  • Frequent load shedding
  • Fluctuations in voltage and frequency
  • Backing down of thermal leading to their low PLF & efficiency
  • Constrained load carrying capacity of grid
  • Poor grid economy

Undesirable Hydro:Thermal Mix reflects a poor ‘Techno-economic-operational-environmental’ ethos of Power Supply System.

Economy of Hydro

Life of a Hydro Plant is more than double that of Thermal, giving a weightage factor of 2 in favour of Hydro. While Hydro is inflation free, continuous escalation in the cost of coal (say 6% per annum) makes the operational cost of thermal ever increasing during 60 year life span of Hydro, giving a weightage factor of 8.89 in favour of Hydro. Load carrying capacity of the grid and hence its economy improves with the peaking partnership of Hydro, with a weightage factor of 1.33 in favour of Hydro. Hydro therefore is (2 X 8.89 X 1.33 = 23.65) say 24 times Economical/ Cheaper/ favorable alternative to the nation.

Blossoming economies of Hydro dominated Nations

Nations depending more on the naturally gravitating water falls are demonstrating blossoming economies, For instance, China has become second largest economy after US, leaving behind India & Japan, reaching the largest Hydro installed capacity in the world (220,000 MW), commissioning inter alia the world’s largest Hydro- Three Gorges (22,500 MW).

Brazil has surpassed Canada’s GDP by building hydro capacity of 97,000 MW including world’s second largest Hydro- Itaipu (14,000 MW). Relationship of GDP with Hydro Power Capacity amply proves that Hydro becomes the Prime Mover of national economies. While the total power capacity reflects directly on GDP; the Hydro content makes the base cost cheapest possible. Brazil for example, has surpassed a developed country like Canada in terms of GDP (2.31 against 1.39 Trillion USD) not by higher installed power capacity (only 116 against 130 thousand MW in Canada), but by a higher Hydro content (84% against 61%)

In our neighborhood Bhutan’s Hydro has led to their per capita income exceed that of India.

Technical Compulsion for Energy Security

In the absence of adequate peaking partnership of hydro plants, Indian grids suffer from frequency variations harmful for electrical equipment. Being an ideal peaking partner capable of coming on line from zero to full load in a fraction of a minute and vice versa , Hydro becomes a Frequency controlling technical compulsion of a supply system. In fact it is a technical, operational, carbon neutralizing compulsion. Energy Security of any nation hinges on:

-dependence on indigenous resources, preferably renewable and non-polluting -independence in technology

“For 24×7 Energy Security” Hydro meets the above requirements. The latest HSBC Global Research Report says “In India RPO being in place, Hydro should earn RECs. Their report is on “More Hydro power to boost energy security”


Let us not lose sight of the fact that Hydro Power represents Non-Consumptive, Non-Radioactive, Non-Polluting use of water resources towards Inflation free, “Highest Density” renewable energy development with Most mature technology, Highest prime moving efficiency, spectacular operational flexibility and multifarious benefits such as water supply for drinking & industrial use, Irrigation & food security, flood control, navigation and tourism etc. Wise countries have first exhausted their hydro resources and then turned to other alternatives. That indeed is the way.

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI Scholar, D.Engg.(Calif), FNAE
Hon.D.WRE (ranked amongst 30-most eminent scientists in the world)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex-Director (REC)/ Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)

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